During his prolific 43-year recording career, romantic crooner Arthur Prysock was heard primarily in the company of big bands or string sections. On his nearly 60 albums, mostly for the Old Town label, Prysock found his deep, velvety tones cushioned with violins or brass. His tender music has been a staple of jazz radio in the wee hours of the morning, and of cheek-to-cheek dancing in smoke-filled cocktail lounges.
Arthur Prysock, Jr. was born in South Carolina and raised on a farm in North Carolina. Leaving home at age 16, he landed a job with an aircraft company in Hartford, Connecticut, which lasted until the firm found out he was underage. He then found a job as a cook and, at night, sang with a band around Hartford. I became the biggest thing up there in a year’s time, he recalls.
One day, Buddy Johnson’s band came through, and his singer was sick, so I asked Buddy if I could sing a song with him. And he said. ‘Do you know any of my songs?’ I said, ‘Yes, I know them all; I sing them nightly.’ When he introduced me, the auditorium went wild, because I was a local boy. In the end, I sang with him all night. He paid me 25dollars, and that was the most money I had ever made.
Johnson’s blues-based orchestra was one of the most popular black big bands in America, and Prysock remained with it from 1944 until 1952, scoring such hits as They All Say I’m the Biggest Fool, I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone, Jet, My Love, and At Last. Though Prysock’s hits with Johnson helped to establish his reputation as one of the quintessential balladeers in the history of American popular music, he received no royalties for them. I was just a band vocalist, he explains. The bandleader made all the money.